AgSci dean, faculty, staff endow scholarships during Greater Penn State campaign

Susan Burlingame
April 16, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Motivated by a desire to help deserving students and by gratitude for the opportunities scholarships gave him when he first attended college, Rick Roush, dean of the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, was one of several deans last fall to endow an Open Doors Scholarship as part of Penn State's current fundraising campaign, "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence."

With his wife, Robyn Krause-Hale, associate director of arts advancement in the College of Arts and Architecture, Roush created the Rick Roush and Robyn Krause-Hale Open Doors Scholarship, hoping both to help students with financial need and to inspire other faculty and staff to follow suit. The couple took advantage of a 2:1 University match, which ultimately triples the value of their initial $30,000 investment.

"Knowing how important students in agriculture are to the Commonwealth, and because we've had such wonderful interactions with students in the college, we wanted to do something significant," said Krause-Hale. "We have supported other philanthropic causes, but this is the first time we've created an endowment. We're so happy to be at a point in our lives where this is possible."

There are so many students who have the aptitude and desire to be part of the college, Roush noted. "We wanted to make sure no student who is capable of succeeding would be denied the opportunity because of lack of funding," he said. "That, coupled with the University's generous match, made it an easy decision for us both."

Since the dean's endowment papers were signed, several other members of the College of Agricultural Sciences — both past and present — have invested $30,000 (and in one case, $50,000) to establish Open Doors Scholarships, each taking advantage of the University match, and each citing similar reasons for choosing to focus on assisting students with financial need.

Terry Etherton, head of the Department of Animal Science, and his wife, Penny Kris-Etherton, created the Terry Etherton and Family Open Doors Scholarship in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Simultaneously, the couple created the Dr. Penny M. Kris-Etherton and Family Open Doors Scholarship in the College of Health and Human Development, where Kris-Etherton is a distinguished professor of nutrition.

"Penny and I have been so fortunate," said Etherton when asked his reasons for endowing two scholarships. "We've had such a fabulous life; these scholarships are our way of saying 'thank you.' We have a deep appreciation for what education can provide but appreciate that education is not inexpensive. With the University match and our own desire to help students pursue excellence at this spectacular University, we knew it was the perfect time to establish these endowed scholarships."

A love of the outdoors, protecting natural resources and giving back are the reasons Robert Shannon, associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering and program coordinator for the environmental resource management (ERM) major, and Tammy Shannon, academic advising coordinator and course instructor for ERM, cited for creating the Robert and Tammy Shannon Environmental Resource Management Scholarship. The endowment will support full-time undergraduate students planning to major in ERM, with preference given to past participants of the Pennsylvania Envirothon program.

"We wanted to make a difference," said Robert Shannon. "Creating the scholarship was our way of giving back to our alma mater as well as a chance to help young people who are passionate about the environment afford the opportunity to join the college and become part of our program."

Added Tammy Shannon, "They are the people who will become the strong alumni of our program someday. For us, it was just the right thing to do."

In addition to those still working in the college, several former faculty members have come forward as well. A recently retired animal science faculty member (who wishes to remain anonymous) and his wife created two endowed scholarships. He said scholarship support enabled him to complete his undergraduate degree, followed by graduate study and a career in academia. He said he and his wife hope the new scholarships will help recipients achieve their academic goals.

Another retired animal science faculty member, Professor Emeritus Erskine Cash, and his wife, Wilhelmina, created the Erskine and Wilhelmina Cash and Family Open Doors Scholarship.

"Higher education was not an option for my parents, but they realized the importance of a college degree for me and my siblings," said Cash. "Income from FFA [Future Farmers of America] projects, summer employment and scholarships allowed me to complete my bachelors' degree. We've been thinking about giving back for a long time, and the stars finally aligned for us. We hope this scholarship does for future students what they did for me and many of my former students."

Janet Scanlon, former principal in the State College Area School District, created the Scanlon Family Open Doors Scholarship to honor the memory of her late husband, Dennis Scanlon, who retired in 2008 as professor emeritus of agricultural and extension education.

"If people only knew how close Denny came to not earning a degree due to lack of funding," reflected Scanlon. "He worked on campus to pay his tuition but had to drop out after one year because he couldn't afford the next semester." Scanlon said her husband worked hard all summer, holding three jobs and "socking away" enough money to return to Penn State to complete his undergraduate degree.

"Denny was a city boy, but he turned out to be an aggie and was proud of his role in agriculture," said Scanlon. "He would be so happy to know that I created a scholarship for young people who are struggling financially."

Roush believes the creation of these endowments is evidence of the college's impact on the lives of those it touches.

"When faculty and staff members, even those who have moved on, create scholarships during Penn State's ambitious campaign, it signals to me that they are committed to the important work we do in the college — our critical research, teaching and extension enterprise — and the quality of student we attract," he said.

"The college doesn't have the usual fundraising pyramid where there are a few major donors at the top. We are unique and have been successful because there are so many people who come forward to make more moderate donations. Our faculty and staff, by endowing scholarships as well as making other contributions to the campaign, are an important part of that effort."

The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences represents the foundation of Penn State University and its land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has begun "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives: Open Doors, Create Transformative Experiences, and Impact the World. Through teaching, research and extension, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of Agricultural Sciences is able to offer scholarships to one in four students, create life-shaping opportunities, and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit

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Last Updated April 16, 2018